In our earlier blog, we talked about how business works better when we interact as one human to another rather than as one corporate to another, despite what the term business-to-business (B2B) suggests. To build a brand that is attractive and reliable, we, as marketers, need to create a layer of credibility that customers and prospects can trust.
How to do that in a digitalised world? Can we build full trust online or is the digital arena only a way to create awareness and engagement? Well, if you haven’t started thinking about it before, you better start now when the way people work has changed radically due to the pandemic.
Here are my insights of what you need to get started on, if you haven’t already:
1. Let the experts do the work for you
In today's business world, service has become the differentiator, so much so that many products have either been 'servitized' or become 'service-oriented.' Today, you come across numerous sites that compare products based on the best price, fastest delivery, and other factors. What is more, these sites also add customer testimonials, recommendations, or ratings. It s no longer sufficient to offer the most attractive prices or have the best quality, but you must also build your brand credibility. As humans, we are more inclined to trust a person recommending a product or service over a company selling that product or service.
We are a people business and we sell the expertise of our people. We have been working hard to promote our experts—we have experts for all our IT solutions, such as business systems and e-commerce—and this worked well so far, as expertise is exactly what we sell. We call them micro-influencers or micro-inspirators as some might not like the word ’influencer.’ These people have an extensive network of contacts with our customers.
The whole point of micro-influencers is that the person is credible, both online and in person. But what happens when micro-influencers no longer meet the customer physically? How will the customer then connect the blog they are reading to the micro-influencer? How should the micro-influencer then build trust with the customer? Is it possible to create trust without personal interaction?
Until now, our micro-influencers have been able to build their personal brands. In the post-Corona world, this will take longer. Real trust in the expert will be created only after the project is done, and the consultant (and we, as a company) have proven their worth.
2. Have your best customers talk about you to other customers
As customers, we no longer believe what brands say about themselves, but we will give credence to what other customers have to say about the brand. All of a sudden, customers have got a voice; by rating a company in different apps or on the website!
What was once word-of-mouth publicity has now for better or worse become completely transparent and visible online. As a marketer, you have to accept that you neither own the platform nor the dialogue—it can occur in places where you may not be able to see or hear what is being said.
As a marketer, you will need to build credibility by ensuring that all the stakeholders (employees, board members, management, vendors, associates, dealers, etc.) associated with your brand, must carry the message for you. In effect, everyone should be a brand ambassador and be able to tell the same story. How do we get there then?
We have seen a clear link to increasing sales when satisfied customers talk about our brand—via a stage, a webinar, or in an article— stating that they are happy with our partnership. Leveraging customer testimonials and references to close a sale has always been a go-to strategy in the B2B sector. It has now taken the digital route with new ways and channels to express customer testimonials in 2020. If a customer is willing to vouch for your brand, then you have won the battle.
3. Leverage data to understand the human aspects of customer challenges
We marketers must become better at understanding the customers and their real challenges. While customers do have challenges related to growth, profitability, and efficiency, that is not all. Their problems could also be linked to internal politics, the organization structure, individual career goals, and fears that could govern not only their behavior but also the choice of partner or supplier.
How can we then understand how the customer behaves without actually meeting them? Using customer-related data, of course! When we look at our data, we can probably see that our content over the past year has not resulted in the kind of conversions we had hoped for.
It used to work well, didn't it? We need to now revisit, rethink, and build hypotheses that we can test. Based on the results, we can assess how customers' behavior has changed and plan how we can tweak and deliver relevant content to enable customers to consume the content and take the next steps.
It is weird in a way that even as we move towards having a predominantly digital presence, we strive to project a human persona online. Our brand comes alive when you have a distinct identity. Customer service teams always use their personal name in the chat. Our customers are being modeled by marketing as 'personas.'
But it is only when these digital touch points match the actual experience that long-term trust will be built.